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Activity Report
by Ron Mak

DATE: Wednesday, November 10, 2004 from 11:00 to 12:00
LOCATION: Computer History Museum (Hopper conference room)

ATTENDEES: Ronald Mak, Bill Worthington, Alex Hurwitz, Dan McInnis, Ed Thelen,

Robert Garner, Bill Selmeier, Sellam Ismail

This was the kick-off meeting for the software group.

We briefly went over Ron Mak's proposal for the group, which he sent out last week. We agreed that the two main goals of the group will be (1) to provide demos that will allow the 1401 to perform for museum visitors, and (2) to teach short classes using the 1401.

We want museum visitors to have a full sensory experience. Therefore, we would allow them to enter the machine room while the 1401 is operating, but they will stay behind the railing. They should then be able to feel, hear, smell, etc. what it was like to work in a 1960s-era computer room.

Question #1: Can we put a webcam in the machine room? Then we can broadcast images of the operators working over the web.

Question #2: How hard would it be to hook up a laptop to the 1401 to act as a card reader? This would save us the effort to punch cards.

Task #1: We need to copy all the 1401 card decks that we have onto a CD. Bill Selmeier volunteered to look into how to do this. The 1620 and PDP-1 restoration projects used a card reader that we can also use.

Task #2: All of us should be on the lookout for any 1401 programs and utilities, especially ones that we can use as demos. In particular, we need Autocoder or SPS assemblers that run on the 1401 if we want to write our own demos or conduct programming classes.

Task #3: Evaluate 1401 simulators and emulators. Dan McInnis has already started with one. Each evaluator should e-mail a short summary of what was good or bad. This will be useful information to give out to students of our classes.

We discussed what kind of classes we could conduct and how to get the word out. We shouldn't advertise "1401 programming classes" because then nobody would show up. Instead, these classes will recreate for the students what it was like to program and operate a computer back in the early 1960s. It will be important for us to work with the computer science departments of the local colleges and universities. For example, a computer architecture class may assign students to come to the museum to learn about and get hands-on experience with our system.

We will work closely with the museum staff to stay within their resource limits. (Sellam will keep us out of trouble!)

Let's continue to communicate by e-mail. We can decide when to have our next meeting.

-- Ron

P.S. I've attached a semi-serious prototype ad for one of our classes.

Ronald Mak
University Affiliated Research Center (UARC)
University of California at Santa Cruz
Mail Stop 269-3
NASA Ames Research Center
Moffett Field, CA 94035-1000
Office: (650) 604-0727
Cell: (650) 279-1514
FAX: (650) 604-4036

The Computer History Museum presents

What Computing was Like in the Early 1960s
A Hands–On Experience

Sign up for our next Living History class and work with our fully restored, operational IBM 1401 computer system!

  • Learn about the 1401, a small mainframe computer that was very popular during the early 1960s.
  • Solve a simple programming problem using our 1401 system –– it’s totally maxed–out with 16,000 characters of core memory!
  • Sit down at a keypunch machine and punch your program card deck.
  • Come to work in our raised–floor, air–conditioned computer room.
  • Run your card deck through the system card reader at 800 cards per minute.
  • Push the LOAD button and watch the console lights flash as the 1401 processes your program.
  • See your printout come out on the line printer at 600 lines per minute.

If you’ve only used modern PCs, workstations, laptops, and PDAs, then this will be a hands-on, full sensory experience for you –– feel and hear what it was like to program and operate a computer system back in 1960.

If you started your career with mainframe computers, then come and relive the good old days when computers were noisy and had flashing lights.

If you’re studying computer architecture, come work with a living dinosaur and learn from the old masters.

Crew cuts, white shirts, narrow black ties, pocket protectors, miniskirts, and beehive hairdos are optional. (Bring your slide rule though, just in case!)